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Pamela Jakiela is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, where she studies gender issues, behavioral development economics, survey design and measurement, and impact evaluation. Her work has been published in leading academic journals including Science and the Review of Economic Studies, and has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times and NPR. Her current work includes research on women’s labor force participation and occupational choice, the gender dynamics of investments in early childhood, and the impacts of cash grants on subsistence entrepreneurs.
Estimating intergenerational mobility in developing countries is difficult because matched parent-child income records are rarely available and education is measured very coarsely. In particular, there are no established methods for comparing educational mobility for subsamples of the population when the education distribution is changing over time.
In their recent paper, Sam Asher and coauthors present new methods and new administrative data to overcome this gap, and study intergenerational mobility across groups and across space in India. They find that the intergenerational mobility for the population as a whole has remained constant since liberalization, but cross-group changes have been substantial. Rising mobility among historically marginalized "Scheduled Castes" is almost exactly offset by declining intergenerational mobility among Muslims, a comparably sized group that has few constitutional protections. These findings contest the conventional wisdom that marginalized groups in India have been catching up on average. The paper also explores heterogeneity across space, generating the first high-resolution geographic measures of intergenerational mobility across India, with results across 5600 rural subdistricts and 2300 cities and towns.